It has been a meteoric rise in jumps racing for Alfie Dee. The Ken Duncan-trained gelding won his maiden hurdle just weeks ago and at Riccarton on Wednesday he took out one of the biggest prizes in the jumps racing calendar, the Hospitality New Zealand Canterbury 130th Grand National Hurdles (4200m).
In a daring ride by jockey Buddy Lammas, the pair served it up to their competitors, taking an early lead and they kept a strong tempo throughout, leading by as much as 12 lengths in the mid-stages of the race. Lammas rated his ride perfectly and was able to get the most out of a tiring Alfie Dee to win the time-honoured race by a nose over the fast-finishing race favourite, Bad Boy Brown.
Duncan has thought a lot of the nine-year-old for some time and he was delighted with the result. “I have always rated this horse very highly,” he said. “Probably too high, he has run out of his grade his entire life. “For him to finally stand up and say how good of a horse he is, is a great thrill.”
Duncan was full of praise for Lammas after the race and is looking forward to partnering with him again on Saturday when Shamal attempts to defend his title in the Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge 145th Grand National Steeplechase (5600m), for which he is a $3.50 joint favourite with TAB bookmakers. “That was an exceptional ride,” he said. “It was a tired horse he picked up and got over the line, so that was a fantastic ride from Buddy. “That’s why I put him on my horses. He has got that balance and ability.”
Lammas was elated with the win and said his strategy all along was to get to the lead. “My whole game plan was to get to the front. I was going to aim for the front down the home straight on the first lap, but I got there sooner. “He was just happy cruising and pricked his ears. I just kept him in a happy spot. When he wanted to get a bit quicker I let him roll a bit, then I eased him back. I gave him a couple of breathers.”
Lammas thought he had been beaten on the line, but he was pleasantly surprised when he found out otherwise. “I thought he (Bad Boy Brown) got me on the line, but he just stuck his nose out and got the win,” he said. Lammas is enjoying his time in the jumps jockey ranks and is looking forward to potentially taking out the Grand National double on Saturday. “It hasn’t been bad, a National Steeples and a National Hurdles, it’s a great a game,” he said.